Two of three school districts employ dyslexia therapist

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 25, 2019

Parents of children in some of the county’s school districts are concerned that students with dyslexia are not receiving the amount of help they need while in school.

The alleged limited or lack of access to a dyslexia therapist has caused about 200 parents to sign a petition. Two parents also expressed their financial concerns because they say they have to pay for private services.

Jennifer Taggard’s daughter attends Picayune School District, and she said that since there is no dyslexia therapist on staff, her daughter has limited access to help while in school, forcing Taggard to seek help from a private therapist at her own expense.

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Even though the District does not have a dedicated therapist on staff, she said the teachers do all they can to help her daughter.

“They just want to see their kids succeed,” Taggard said.

There is a specialized school in Petal called the 3-D School, but sending her child there would mean taking her from her friends.

Keri Sanders’ child attends the Pearl River County School District, which has a dedicated dyslexia therapist in training on staff. However, Sanders said that she feels there are not enough staff to help the many children diagnosed with dyslexia in that District, so she also had to enroll her child in private therapy sessions at a monthly expense of $320.

Representatives of all three school districts said that children are screened for learning disabilities such as dyslexia in the spring of their kindergarten year. If a warning sign is noted, then that child is screened again in the fall of their first grade year. After the second screening, the District staff will notify the parents if there is a problem. At that point, it is up to the parent to have their child officially diagnosed.

Mike Posey, PRC School District’s Director of Student Services, said children are only seen by the therapist if the parents receive an official diagnosis from a licensed medical professional. Pearl River County School District Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said this is the second or third year the District has employed a dedicated dyslexia therapist. The administration and Board of Trustees made the financial commitment to hire a therapist because there is a need, but she is spread thin, he said.

Posey said the District could benefit from another therapist, but funding is limited.

“We recognize the difficulties those students have and strive to meet their needs with limited funding,” Posey said.

Kathryn Tanner, PRC’s therapist in training, said she currently works with 27 students at the elementary campus, five at the middle school and three who are attending high school.

Poplarville School District has a licensed dyslexia therapist on staff as well, said Superintendent Carl Merritt.

Within the Poplarville School District, the licensed therapist works with 35 to 40 students, mostly in grades K through 5. Diane Wise, Picayune School District’s Director of Exceptional Education, said the number of students with dyslexia is about the same as the other two districts.

However, she said there is no therapist on staff in the Picayune School District. Instead teachers are trained to help students overcome their dyslexia or other reading disorders, said Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell. Wise said that the teachers utilize a combination of hands-on, visual and auditory exercises to help students with dyslexia. She said that every teacher in grades K through 6 is trained to work with students who need reading therapy.

Children in the districts with a therapist receive about an hour of therapy three to four times per week, depending on their needs.